Tuesday 13th June 2017
We are heading up the long and winding River towards Antwerp and our arrival at 8.30 a.m. Today I plan to walk to the Roman Catholic Cathedral of our Lady.
Arriving at the Gothic-style Cathedral which was built between 1352 and 1521, I was fortunate enough to be able to join a tour with an English-speaking guide, and the five of us walked, admired, and enjoyed seeing the treasures of this huge building on our hour-long tour. This included several works by the artist Rubens. It was an interesting comparison with our beautiful English Cathedrals and wonderful Cathedral cities back home in the United Kingdom.
Walking back to the ship was enjoyable, trying to decide where to stop for a cup of coffee on the way and looking at the sights.
Back on the quayside I took photographs of COLUMBUS and then returned on board to enjoy the rest of my time on the ship today, before we sail back to Tilbury overnight.
Wednesday 14th June 2017
We arrived back in Tilbury and had to disembark after an early breakfast, but we all agreed it had been an enjoyable short trip with many things to recommend Cruise & Maritime Voyage's new flagship COLUMBUS.
Monday 12th June 2017
I decided to have an early-morning cappuccino in the deck bar up on Lido Deck, as we sailed towards Amsterdam. I found the builders plate (Alsthom from St. Nazaire) from 1989 on the Sun Deck above, and then headed for breakfast in the restaurant. Eggs Benedict was enjoyed by several of us, which was an excellent start to the day.
We are due alongside the Cruise Terminal at 9.00 a.m. but 45 minutes after tying up at the quayside we were still waiting as instructed, as there were problems with the air bridge from landside, which was supposed to connect us with the terminal building. I had been held on stairs and had time to notice the coloured streaks of a nearby passenger's hair almost replicated the colours and stripes in a nearby piece of artwork. How delightful.
Once off the ship I collected a local map from a helpful lady at the tourist information desk in the terminal, and made my way to the other side of the Amsterdam Railway Station through public road and path tunnels under the lines.
I enjoyed all the views as I walked along, struggling slightly against a very strong breeze, but then I came to the building I was aiming for: the Amsterdam Public Library, seemingly built of glass. I took the escalators up to the top floor, and walked up the final wide staircase; there in front of me was the view over the city, from the balcony. Behind and around me was a large cafe seating area and an even better sight was the food and other delights on offer in the cafe itself. Fruit, vegetables, snacks and meals were all freshly prepared and it was quite difficult to make a selection of something to have with my coffee. I managed it though.
After that I went into the Amsterdam Railway Station and was immediately attracted by the sound of piano music coming from one of the main areas.
Someone was playing the grand piano which is available for anyone to use, and he was obviously very talented as a crowd soon gathered to enjoy his skills. I stood with a young lady who was also listening and enjoying the music, and she told me she was a graphic artist from, guess where, Texel! I explained that I lived in England, but was visiting Amsterdam on the cruise ship COLUMBUS. She had been asked to do some work on the new Texel ferry, and I was very happy to tell her I had sailed on it in March and enjoyed all I had seen of the new ship, its design and interiors. We agreed it was such a coincidence that we both knew about the new ferry, and I congratulated her on her work.
The pianist traveller played to us all for some time but then left, to great applause, and I made my way back to the waterside to take a ferry across to photograph COLUMBUS.
The sky was overcast still, with a brisk wind, so I was happy to head back to the cruise terminal. Queuing to get back on board, I was surprised to see a couple of friends going the other way, whom I know from our association with the Mission to Seafarers in the UK. They are also sailing on COLUMBUS but on another deck to me, so we had time just to say hello and goodbye before going our separate ways. We sail at 5.30 p.m. from Amsterdam.
Tonight is formal night and it was an extremely smart-looking group who met to go to the Show, before pre-dinner drinks in the Dome Bar as we watched us sailing through the lock on our way to the sea.
Formal dinner this evening was enjoyable, with a Baked Alaska parade, chefs and staff progressing through the Restaurant and napkin waving from many passengers. We are now on our way to Antwerp.
Ships seen: Columbus, ferries number 56, 60 and 61
To be concluded...
Sunday 11th June
Another weekend, another little trip with CMV, and this time on their ship COLUMBUS. I made my way to London and Fenchurch Street station via Tower Hill, (lovely view of the previous Port of London Authority building)
and took the local train east to Tilbury. I am booked on a three-night trip to Amsterdam and Antwerp yet again, but this is a new ship for CMV, and a group of us are looking forward to sailing on her.
Once in the London Cruise Terminal at Tilbury we were informed that there were computer problems, and that boarding had been delayed. Glasses of Sparkling Wine were then handed round to everyone and eventually we were able to board. I made my way to my twin inside cabin 10209, starboard midships, which looked spacious and comfortable.
This ship has had many names and owners since she was built in 1989, including SITMAR FAIRMAJESTY, STAR PRINCESS, ARCADIA, OCEAN VILLAGE, PACIFIC PEARL, PACIFIC P and now COLUMBUS. Now with Cruise & Maritime Voyages as their flagship, she is 63,786 gross tons.
Our large group met up for lunch and then dispersed around the ship to take photographs or simply enjoy the summer sunshine on deck.
Lifeboat Drill was scheduled for 3.15 and I made my way to one of only two muster stations on the ship. COLUMBUS has 775 cabins, allowing for 1,400 passengers, and this includes 150 cabins for solo passenger use. Bearing this in mind, I thought the Lifeboat Drill was absolute chaos, with far too many people crammed into far too little space. Many of us had to stand close together in the public rooms used for the two muster stations, holding our lifejackets, and still move to allow other passengers to get through the crush to the other muster station. I was standing near a couple of people in wheel chairs, although I was too tightly packed in to see anyone else. I shudder to think what it might be like in a real emergency!
The end of the passenger Lifeboat Drill was a great relief and I was pleased to be able to get back on deck for our departure from the London Cruise Terminal here at Tilbury. On the quayside there were plumes of coloured smoke to celebrate our sailing, as we headed off into the English summer sunshine and the sea.
Later on I unpacked my possessions and realised that my passport would be put into a cabin safe with the name label on it of OCEAN VILLAGE.
Walking around the decks I was glad to see a Coffee Shop with sea views, swimming pools, outdoor bars, the Plantation Bistro with the Fusion area, the Dome Observatory/nightclub with its panoramic view out to sea, and the Waterfront Restaurant with wonderful views at the stern. The atrium was spacious and the carpeting in there was what I shall call eye-catching.
Pre-dinner drinks were enjoyed in the Connexions Bar, before dinner at our allocated tables in the Waterfront Restaurant. Clocks go forward one hour tonight as we sail towards arrival tomorrow morning in Amsterdam.
Ships seen: Columbus, Silver Wind sailing past us in Tilbury, Morning Champion, and something of Finnlines berthed in Tilbury.
To be continued...
Saturday 11th March 2017
Today we are due in Antwerp, Belgium, and of course we have to leave the North Sea, enter the Westerschelde Estuary and then sail along the River Scheldt to reach this huge city. We are due in at 9 a.m. and once again there were problems with the gangway so our disembarkation was later than planned.
Today many of us will visit the Red Star Line Museum, which is located along the riverside and well worth a visit. The exhibition, on several floors, is based on the almost 3 million people who emigrated to America (New York and Philadelphia) using this historic shipping line from Antwerp. Many of the passengers were fleeing from Eastern Europe, sailing from Antwerp, Southampton and Liverpool, to what they hoped would be a new life. The exhibits that we saw were often heart-breaking, especially to those of us who appreciate our freedom nowadays. The Line was started in 1873 and was in service until 1935. There was an interesting cutaway model of one ship, the BELGENLAND, but many of the exhibits were very personal to the passengers and had been donated to this museum, which opened in 2013.
Back in the medieval city outside the Museum it was time to find somewhere for lunch and recover the emotional balance of the day.
I walked back to the ship and then stood on the terrace of the viewing platform nearby to take stern photos of ASTORIA. I wanted a bow picture as well so chose to walk along the cobbled quayside for that, before getting back on board.
There was time for more photos before afternoon tea, and the chance to discuss what we had all done today. We are due to sail at 6 p.m. but some passengers were still missing so we were late leaving, and I had time to pack my few belongings and prepare for drinks and dinner on our last evening on board ASTORIA. We are a group of friends with a love of ships in common, and it was fascinating to hear what other interests we all had.
Ships seen: Astoria, riverboat Verdi, tug Fairplay III, West-Hinder with a red hull, Belgenland the cutaway model in the Red Star Museum
Sunday 12th March 2017
Overnight we sailed back to Tilbury and this morning after breakfast we had to disembark from ASTORIA and get home.
Public transport was reliable until of course Southern Rail had to be used. Ah yes, it's a Sunday so this meant replacement buses for part of my journey.
I had really enjoyed my little trip on ASTORIA, with a delightful group of people, and would recommend trying this ship with Cruise & Maritime Voyages.